Last Tuesday’s primary election was in many ways a test of former President Donald J. Trump’s influence in Georgia. He endorsed no less than eight different Georgia candidates for various offices as he sought to flex his political muscle.

Hoping that his support would act as a magic silver bullet that would slay political opponents and clear the path to electoral success, many candidates slavishly strove to obtain his endorsement. But how effective was Trump in Georgia on primary election day? It turns out not so much.

There were no Georgia races that Trump was more interested in than governor and secretary of state, and he has minced no words about his feelings for Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. He blames them, in part, for his failed re-election bid, and wanted them to violate the Constitution and invalidate a legally run and fair election.

Given his vendetta, Trump endorsed former Sen. David Perdue for governor and Congressman Jody Hice for secretary of state—both of whom have peddled debunked falsehoods about stolen elections. However, the Trump endorsement seems to have lost much of its power. Not only did Kemp defeat Perdue, it was a complete rout. Kemp hauled in nearly 74 percent of the vote. Raffensperger also enjoyed a fruitful election night. He has enough votes to avoid a run-off and win outright.

These races weren’t outliers, though. Trump-backed candidates for attorney general (AG) and insurance commissioner were also soundly defeated. Patrick Witt for insurance commissioner only garnered around 17 percent of the vote, while John Gordon earned some 26 percent in the AG’s race. Yet, it wasn’t a total loss for Trump on Tuesday night.

Trump threw his support behind Vernon Jones and Jake Evans for different congressional seats. Both men competed in crowded fields, and they are poised to make it to the run-off even though neither were the top vote getters in their races. Despite this, their candidacies shouldn’t be discounted, given that Georgia run-offs sometimes favor those who were the runner-ups in primary elections.

Where Trump will likely see proof of his influence is in the senatorial and lieutenant governor races. Former University of Georgia (UGA) football superstar Herschel Walker grabbed Trump’s endorsement for Senate and sprinted to an easy victory—capturing over 68 percent of the vote. Did Trump elevate him to victory? I don’t think so. Trump could have endorsed anyone else in the race, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered. Walker is essentially royalty and a mega-celebrity in Georgia, and he was viewed as the presumptive nominee since he announced his candidacy.

Trump supported another former UGA football player—State Sen. Burt Jones for lieutenant governor—who enjoyed a strong showing on election night. While he teetered on the edge of being forced into a run-off with Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, it appears that he will win outright by the narrowest of margins. It’s hard to determine whether Trump’s backing played a major role in this race, but it is apparent why Trump continues to remain politically active.

After his electoral rebuke and banishment from Twitter, he has refused to fade into obscurity or retire to a quiet life of opulence at Mar-a-Lago. Rather, he has held rallies and endorsed a slew of candidates. In fact, he seems to be attempting to refashion himself into a sort of GOP king-maker or party boss. Meanwhile, Trump appears pleased to have politicians from across the country begging for his approval, and understandably.

His political involvement keeps him relevant in the political realm; he can reshape the Republican Party in his own image; he can help put men and women in power who will subsequently owe him a favor, if he ever needs it; and finally, he can use his endorsements to punish officials who crossed him.

For some time, the Trump endorsement was a powerful tool in GOP primaries. So, was it a powerful tool in the recent Georgia primaries? Of the eight races covered in this piece, only two of his candidates were the top vote getters and four were resoundingly defeated at the polls, which isn’t a great record. This suggests that Trump’s backing isn’t so potent after all. That’s not to say that it isn’t valuable—far from it.

There is certainly a cadre of Trump loyalists who blindly make their decisions based upon what the former president tells them to do. For most Georgians, I think the Trump endorsement is much less important and is only one small factor among many others that inform their decision.

Image: boscorelli

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